Harvard Professor Peter E. Gordon to Present “The Disenchantment of the Concept: From Heine to Adorno”

Peter GordonHarvard Professor Peter E. Gordon will present “The Disenchantment of the Concept: From Heine to Adorno” on February 23 at 5:00 pm in the Class of ’47 Room at the Babbidge Library for the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life’s Konover Special Lecture Series. The event is co-sponsored by UConn’s German Studies program.

Professor Gordon is a renowned expert in the field of German history and philosophy as well as German-Jewish thought. He is the author of numerous books, including: Rosenzweig and Heidegger: Between Judaism and German Philosophy (2003), which was the recipient of the Salo W. Baron Prize from the Academy for Jewish Research for Best First Book, the Goldstein-Goren Prize for Best Book in Jewish Philosophy, and the Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas for Best Book in Intellectual History. He is also the author of Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos (2010), which received the Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society.


Professor Gordon’s lecture will embark on a conceptual adventure through multiple disciplines and themes, between Jewish thought and German literature, between sociology and philosophy, between secularization and religion.  

Fifty years ago the social theorist and philosopher Theodor W. Adorno published his late masterpiece of critical philosophy, Negative Dialectics, a work in which he called for a “disenchantment of the concept.” A deeper understanding of the significance of that task might be found if brought into a comparative light in contrast to Max Weber’s celebrated call for a “disenchantment of the world.” But the deeper, historical resonance of Adorno’s phrase is best understood if the much-neglected contributions of the German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine are recalled. Heine’s early literary efforts helped to form the matrix for left-Hegelian thinking that would inspire the Frankfurt School in the later twentieth century. 


Peter E. Gordon is Amabel B. James Professor of History and faculty affiliate in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. He has been named a finalist twice for the Levinson Award for undergraduate teaching; and, in 2005, he received the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has been a visiting professor at the École Normale Supêrieure and the School for Criticism and Theory at Cornell University.

Trained in history and philosophy at the University of California, he received his doctorate in 1997 and was then a Postdoctoral Fellow on the Society of Fellows at Princeton University before joining the faculty at Harvard in the fall of 2000. He is the editor of several collections of essays, including The Cambridge Companion to Modern Jewish Philosophy (2007), Weimar Thought: A Contested Legacy (Princeton, 2013), and several others. He is currently co-editing The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School with Espen Hammer and Axel Honneth. His most recent monography appeared this past fall (2016) with Harvard University Press under the title Adorno and Existence.

Peter E. Gordon works chiefly on themes in Continental philosophy and social thought in Germany and France in the late-modern era, with an emphasis on critical theory, western Marxism, the Frankfurt School, phenomenology, and existentialism. He has written on Max Weber, Adorno’s music criticism, Weimar intellectuals, Hannah Arendt, political theology, theories of secularization, theories of historical ontology and historical epistemology, social theory after the Holocaust, and modern Jewish thought.